(left to right): Anna Squires (Warwickshire Wildlife Trust), Cllr Jim O’Boyle, Les Fawcett (Coventry Society), Wayne Allen (Allen Arboriculture), Jon Plumley (Coventry Charterhouse Association), Richard Starritt (Severn Trent).
The Charterhouse, which is a Grade 1 Listed 14th century Carthusian monastery set, is to be transformed by Historic Coventry Trust into a major visitor attraction ahead of Coventry being UK City of Culture in 2021.
The first stage has involved the creation of a community orchard within the parkland and walled gardens at The Charterhouse which is owned and managed by the Historic Coventry Trust.
The Coventry Charterhouse Association and Charterhouse Residents Association selected a mix of apples, pears, plums and cherries for a mixed fruit orchard.
In addition to the trees planted in the park, the groups have bought a selection of smaller trees, which they are tending in the medieval walled garden, for later planting.
Local resident and arborculturalist Wayne Allen, of Allen Arboriculture, has overseen the planting and arranged for pupils from All Saints Church of England Primary School in Strathmore Avenue, Coventry, to help with the project.
Warwickshire Wildlife Trust has also helped with organising volunteering and advising Historic Coventry Trust, to ensure the wider heritage park will be a haven for wildlife.
Funding from the Postcode Local Trust (part of the People’s Postcode Lottery) of £20,000 and a further £5,000 from The Finnis Scott Foundation have covered project costs.
Their generous support has enabled trustees from Historic Coventry Trust to buy 49 semi-mature fruit trees along with smaller trees for use in the gardens and park, later on. The grants have also covered the cost of laying out the site, all materials and archaeological work.
Ian Harrabin, Chairman of the Historic Coventry Trust which sourced the funding and members of the community to support the project, said the orchard was the first stage of the eagerly-awaited restoration project.
“I would like to thank all the pupils and adult volunteers who spent two days planting the wide range of trees as well as the funders who made it possible because the orchard will really transform this area of The Charterhouse,” he said.
“We are also going to re-instate the fish ponds and add a dipping platform so the overall aim is to create a wildlife haven, educational area and riverside walks.
“We believe our plans will have a significant positive impact on the local community and the community orchard is part of our wider plans to create a 70-acre Heritage Park ahead of 2021. These are exciting times.”
Jon Plumley, Chairman of Coventry Charterhouse Association and local resident, said it had been a fun afternoon and the youngsters had all worked really hard.
He added: “The planting of the orchard fulfils a long-held wish of local residents, who already have plans for using the fruit to make preserves, pies and maybe even cider!”
Anna Squires from Warwickshire Wildlife Trust said: “A community orchard is a fantastic idea; local volunteers and school pupils have helped plant a selection of trees, which will soon provide fruit.
“It will be a great educational resource once work to this part of the park is completed, with a pond and wildflower meadows, close to the river providing an area where schoolchildren will be able to see the wildlife which will be attracted there, so it will be ideal for outdoor learning.”
Historic Coventry Trust has been working in partnership with Coventry City Council to restore the medieval building, its walled gardens and grounds, to create a heritage visitor centre and educational attraction as well as creating the first 30 acres of the planned 70-acre Heritage Park.
The scheme includes producing inter-active displays charting the extensive history of The Charterhouse, which was founded by King Richard II in 1385, and the recreation of two monks’ cells in the walled garden, plus a café overlooking the park.
Cllr Jim O’Boyle, St Michael’s ward councillor and Cabinet Member for Jobs and Regeneration at Coventry City Council, said: “Charterhouse is a really important historical building and one that I hope is secure for future gernations to enjoy.
“The school children had great fun planting the trees and soon they will be able to enjoy the fruits of their work, literally. And its great to see how many local people are involved in the careful restoration of the house and gardens.”